Mackie Explores N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and Adolescence In "The Ravagers"

Announced as part of the New 52's "Second Wave" of books from DC Comics, starting in May "The Ravagers" will be joins the Young Justice corner of the DC Universe thanks to writer Howard Mackie ("Ghost Rider," "X-Factor") and artist Ian Churchill ("Hulk", "Marineman").

With the initial story emerging out of the "Teen Titans Annual" #1 and the issue #9 crossover between "Teen Titans," "Superboy" and "Legion Lost," "The Ravagers" sees a team of familiar and new DC faces -- Caitlin Fairchild, Terra, Beast Boy, Thunder and Lightning -- escaping the bowels of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Whether these super-powered teens can survive on their own outside of the top-secret laboratory or whether Rose Wilson, Warblade and the forces of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. get to them first is the central question to the new monthly comic book series.

In anticipation of the title's debut, writer Mackie spoke with CBR News about "The Ravagers," covering the team's roster, the book's tone and the troubles facing his teen runaways.

CBR News: Howard, up to this point you've written nearly exclusively for Marvel and in recent years you've worked as a contributing editor for Viper Comics. What made you decide to return to writing and to come over to DC for "The Ravagers?"

Howard Mackie: I keep telling people that in my mind the DC New 52 was written for me. I have always been a fan of the DC characters, so when I heard about the 52 I thought I would casually check them out and see what the fuss was all about. I read "Justice League" #1 and was hooked! Then I picked up "Batman," "Teen Titans," "Red Hood and The Outlaws" and not only did I know there was no turning back, but I wanted in.

Between yourself, [DC Editor-in-Chief] Bob Harras, Scott Lobdell and Rob Liefeld, DC has basically assembled the Marvel all-stars of the '90s and early 2000s. Was the chance to work with your old compatriots as much of a draw as the stories coming out of the New 52?

Oh, were they around in the '90s? They must be old! Of course, a major appeal to working on this project is to get a chance to work with people I have admired ever since I was a young comic book fan. To see my name alongside the likes of such luminaries in the comics business is truly a dream come true.

For a series that is spun off of "Teen Titans" and "Superboy," how closely tied into those books is "The Ravagers?" Could a new reader who has not read "Teen Titans" and "Superboy" be able to pick up the title?

Absolutely! The series was born out of story points developed in "Teen Titans" and "Superboy," but that is just a jumping on point. Again, using the New 52 as a model, we want to make sure that everyone can come on board and not feel like an uninvited guest at big party. There will be characters who are familiar, but their stories will unfold in the pages of "The Ravagers."

Similarly, since your main characters are basically escaping during the "Superboy"/"Teen Titans"/"Legion Lost" crossover, are you working with Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco as one of the architects of that event to set the stage for "The Ravagers?"

Architect? Nah, I am more the irritating guy who comes in late and says to the actual architects, "You're going to put a door there? How about making it a window instead? Or at least we should paint it black!" Honestly, Scott and Tom have been very gracious in seeking out and listening to my input on the crossover -- which is going to be awesome! The funny thing about that is that Tom and Scott are very rarely gracious to anyone about anything!

Getting to the book itself, what can you tell us about the story at this point?

Harvest -- the leader of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. -- has been abducting metahuman teens from around the world. Tortured, tested, and experimented on, these kids are tossed into a hellish environment called The Colony. The only rule: survive.

Periodically there is a no holds barred thinning of the herd by Harvest known as "The Culling." From the thinned herd Harvest seeks the elite of his army, the most dangerous metahumans on earth: his Ravagers.

The crossover begins with the beginning of the latest Culling, and the introduction of many of the characters who will be in The Ravagers.

This is when the Teen Titans, Superboy, and Legion Lost enter the picture, and things don't go exactly as Harvest seems to have planned. "The Ravagers" series starts up minutes after the crossover ends.

Ravager is a name mainly associated with the Wilson family, and Rose Wilson is a character in the new series. Does this mean we will see Slade or the other Wilson family members coming into play as well?

Rose Wilson plays a key role in the series, and the extended story behind all the characters. Rose's history will be fully explored in the pages of "The Ravagers," but who is to even say that she related to Deathstroke? You know, it's a whole new DC Universe out there.

As far as characters go, you've mentioned Caitlin Fairchild being a part of the first issues. Who are the other characters involved, and should fans get ready to see some brand new characters populating the book?

Caitlin, Terra, Beast Boy, Thunder and Lightning, Rose Wilson, WarBlade, and new character named Ridge will all feature heavily in the first story arc. Though, I would not presume that you know what you think you know about any of the characters. Past does not always equal present. The role the play in the beginning of the series is not necessarily the role they play as the story unfolds. The theme of the series hinges on answering the question of whether one can fight their destiny. The answer to this question will be different for each character in the book.

Like I've said, I was able to join Scott and Tom in the mapping out of the crossover story, and it is going to be a roller coaster ride -- of course they made me sit behind them and they both shriek like little kids! Me? I went no hands all the way. Which might explain why I am so slow at typing.

Is the fact that these kids never got a chance to experience childhood or normal teenage life in The Colony something you're really playing with in the series -- sort of like superhero action meets angsty teen drama?

You know, I want to be careful with the "teen angst" thing. It isn't just that these kids "never had a chance to experience childhood." They had their lives ripped from them. They were forced to go from zero to sixty -- zits to death traps, first dates to first blood -- or die. Anything resembling a normal "teen" existence is the last thing on their minds. They were too busy trying to survive to even be aware of the things that most teens worry about. There will be some opportunities for them to taste real life, but most will do hesitantly and with suspicion. What they learn is that the fight for survival didn't end when they left The Colony.

Along with building up the young hero section of the DCU, will "The Ravagers" also allow you to explore N.O.W.H.E.R.E. more in depth? Is this book as much about N.O.W.H.E.R.E. as it is the teens?

Yeah, this book is going to launch our characters on a journey of discovery. Much of it will be self discovery, but their actions will lead them to uncover more and more about N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its plans. They will discover that Harvest and N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s reach is wide, and will have ripple effects throughout the new DCU.

Though the book spins off of Lobdell's work, how does "The Ravagers" differ in tone and outlook? Since your teens were raised as proto-super villains, is this a grimmer teen book?

The Ravagers are a cautionary tale of what could have happened to any one of the Teen Titans if not for a single individual gathering them all together. "There but for the grace of Red Robin!"

Scott is definitely writing the more hopeful book. The Teen Titans can serve as the light at the end of a very long dark tunnel to the Ravagers. That is, if the kids don't take a different, darker tunnel first, or get run over by the train.

What has it been like getting the chance to work with artist Ian Churchill again? Was he someone you immediately knew you wanted on "The Ravagers?"

I have been very fortunate to work with some of the top artists in the business over the course of my comic book career. When I heard that I was going to have the opportunity to work with Ian on this project I could not have been more excited. I mean, his artwork, his story telling and the energy he brings to every page speaks for itself. What I did not realize was how much of a true collaborator he would be. That, the chance to collaborate with a truly talented artist, is the thing I love the most about this medium. When it is done right, when there is true communication between writer and artist, that is when it all comes together.

Ian and I have been in constant communication about the characters, their design, their back stories, and their stories going forth. I am very lucky to have him as a creative partner on this project.

"The Ravagers" #1 hits stores May 30.

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